Just after the Lord’s prayer during Mass, the priest offers a short petition that includes the words: “Protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.” With so much upheaval in our midst I find comfort in this petition that scoops up all that is so troublesome today and places it in the context of waiting in joyful hope.

Fear is part of how wondrously we are made as humans. Fear is a natural response to danger, an inner sense, a warning, a message, a mechanism to keep us safe. Fear can stem from a lack of trust that our basic needs will be met and often from a distrust that the things we count on today will not be there tomorrow. There is good reason to fear — the world is changing as evidenced by ravaging forest fires, deadly heat domes, violence, racial injustices, political divisiveness, and a ruthless, relentless global pandemic.

Despite the anxieties and terrors of our nation and our world, there remains a message echoing through the ages, a message found in Scripture and song, a message proclaimed by angels — “fear not.” This message of “do not be afraid” seems to acknowledge we are fearful and yet implores us to have the courage to resist living out of our fears, to avoid getting trapped or paralyzed by fear. Rather, we seem to be told trust in God, a God who says repeatedly, “Do not fear. I will help you.”

These events and incidents serve as challenging clarion calls to summon hope in the face of despair; to know that fear is ameliorated when we have the courage to bear with and encourage one another, particularly those most vulnerable and lost to fear, instead of clinging to a fear-filled and self-serving state. Perhaps God is drawing us toward something we cannot even begin to imagine, something that requires the death of the certain and known, in order to open us to something new. Maybe it’s something that demands a great deal from us and requires courage and hope born of relationship and loving kindness in community.

As people who believe in the Incarnation, in redemption, in resurrection, and in a God who is with us — we are liberated from being ruled by fear and anxiety because our faith is in a God who is active in the world. God is with us to comfort us, but even more to give us courage and hope to face the future.

All the holy messengers encouraging us not to be afraid also bring tidings of good news. The question, magnified by crisis, remains what it has always been — What am I being called to in these circumstances of profound sorrow? How are my prayers and actions expressions of God’s healing love in troubling times? How are my gifts and talents consecrating our suffering world by bringing peace and healing through love?

Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33).

McCabe is chief mission officer of the Oregon Region of Providence St. Joseph Health.